An interiors photographer crafted her home with luxe finishes and gutsy design choices, with help from her Raleigh design friends.
by Ayn-Monique Klahre | photography by Catherine Nguyen | styled by Lauren Burns
From the charcoal-gray trim and expertly styled accent tables in the front room to the oversize pendants and hand-painted walls in the bedroom, Catherine Nguyen’s townhouse is a symphony of moody colors, luxe finishes and gutsy design decisions.
It’s a style she’s refined by working as an interiors photographer, inspired and emboldened by her clients.
Nguyen and her husband Jeremy Parish, who works in marketing for a video-game company, moved to Raleigh from San Francisco in 2013 to be closer to family.
After renting for a few months, they bought a corner lot being developed in North Hills. They worked with builder Ashton Woods to make selections like trim, hardware, countertops and tile.
At the same time that they were starting to make the home their own, Nguyen, whose work has been in magazines like Architectural Digest and Elle Decor, was building her network here in Raleigh.
Early on, she met with WALTER’s founding creative director, Jesma Reynolds, who booked her for her first local editorial job. “Through that connection, I started meeting so many designers,” says Nguyen.
They painted the kitchen cabinets a dark gray and added hardware found on Etsy.
Soon, many of the designers whose work she photographed became friends — and decorating consultants. “My home is really influenced by so many people, I love all of their work,” says Nguyen.
“When I show up for a shoot with Tula Summerford, for example, who’s known for her use of pattern and color, I come out thinking of new ways to be more bold in my own home.”
Michael Strauss, now of Design Haus in Clayton, helped Nguyen and Parish select much of the furniture. “We’d always lived in apartments, so he helped us figure out what we needed and the right scale,” says Nguyen.
Interior designer Linda Boylan steered Nguyen to reupholster two “very brown” accent chairs in a striking diamond pattern. “Now they’re living a new life, and I love them!” says Nguyen.
Burns also designed the bar, with a custom cabinet by J Koger Furniture. “My husband loves collecting and displaying gins,” says Nguyen.
Another interior designer, Lauren Burns, helped Nguyen design her bedroom, and also designed a scheme for a nook in the dining room that incorporates vintage shelving, woven wallpaper and a custom bar. “I love the way the bar area evolved, it feels very sophisticated but also very functional, and pulls together the kitchen and dining spaces,” Parish says.
When Nguyen struggled with installing a gallery wall in the dining room, Martha Schneider of La Maison offered to help. “She just came over with her pencil and a level and figured it out for me,” says Nguyen.
The home also displays pieces from many area makers that Nguyen has been introduced to through work. There’s a textural piece by artist Jennifer Flannigan in the front hallway and alcohol ink pieces by artist and advocate Susie Silver.
There are abstracts by Emily Anne Farrell, a gold Raleigh skyline by Susan Gasperini O’Hara, and a fashion photograph of a woman with a parrot by Christopher Wilson.
The home also reflects finds that Nguyen and Parish have gathered over the years, like the chandelier above the dining table, which they found at an estate sale in Berkeley, California. “We bought it from a man whose wife had passed away.
He said she’d loved that chandelier and he was happy to see it in good hands,” says Nguyen. Around here, Nguyen spends weekends browsing antiques and vintage stores; two favorites are Pigfish Lane and Hunt & Gather. (“They’re such troves of treasures!” says Nguyen.)
Many of her finds — unique barware, candlesticks, bowls and other objets d’art — are displayed on top of Nguyen’s vast collection of coffee-table books. “I can’t resist those big monographs!” she says.
For Nguyen, showing off her home in the magazine that introduced her to the Raleigh design world feels like “a full-circle moment.” “Everything in the house has been so strongly informed by the community I’ve been welcomed into,” says Nguyen. “My business has flourished here because the kinds of relationships you build are different.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.